Prithvi Shekar: I am happy and proud

Prithvi and his partner, Jafreen Shaik made history as they clinched the mixed doubles bronze medal at the recently concluded World Deaflympics held in Turkey.

Mixed doubles bronze medallists Prithvi Sekhar and Jafreen Shaik with coach Chandra Bhushan (right) in Turkey.

"I’m ready to face any opponent," says bronze-medal hero Prithvi Sekhar.

Meet India’s No. 1 deaf tennis player, 23-year-old Prithvi Sekhar. The Chennai-lad etched his name in history books when he secured a mixed doubles bronze medal at the recently concluded World Deaflympics held in Turkey.

Being the sole representative from Tamil Nadu in the Indian contingent, Prithvi and his partner, Jafreen Shaik made history as they clinched the sport’s first medal in the competition’s history.

After being knocked out in the first round in the 2013 edition held in Bulgaria, Prithvi was determined to clinch a medal this time around and he’s realised the dream. While he would have hoped for a better performance in the singles category — where he finished fifth — he is optimistic of succeeding in the next edition.

“I am happy and proud to have won the bronze as it is the first medal for tennis,” says an excited Prithvi, while quickly adding, “I’ve already started training hard and my aim is to win gold in singles the next time.”

Born with a hearing deficiency, Prithvi’s tryst with tennis began at the age of eight, when he chose the sport over cricket because he wasn’t certain if he’d be able to fit in a team, and there has been no looking back since.

He’s currently ranked an impressive 70 in singles and 74 in doubles, as per the All India Tennis Association. “I’m planning to play well in upcoming AITA tournaments and perform in ITF tourneys abroad, too. While I will continue to play in deaf tournaments as well, the normal tournaments are more important,” he says.

While many say his disability could deter his performance, Prithvi has none of that.

“Being deaf makes no difference to my game. I don’t feel any difficulty and I’m ready to face any opponent,” he says with conviction.

The Federer fan rues over the fact that deaf tennis is not very competitive in the country as compared to other nations. Being at the helm of the deaf tennis circuit in India, he admits that it is relatively easier to win a medal, given the lack of competition. There is word that the ITF is looking to conduct tournaments for the deaf and he’s eagerly looking forward to the same.

Despite his recent exploits, he has not received any compensation or sponsorships. “To break into the top ITF ranks I need to train harder and travel abroad a lot. I need to get more funds and sponsorships for that,” he laments.

He has written to the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) about a possible sponsorship or a government job and the request has been forwarded to the State government.

The right-handed Prithvi now has a string of AITA and ITF tournaments coming up, before he heads to the National Games for Deaf in Ranchi in November.

While his achievement was no mean feat, one hopes he uses this as a platform to bolster his promising career.